Australia has just been hit with a brace of new utility vehicles that usher in a new era of design, features and abilities for one of the most popular classes of cars on sale.
One is a sales star, coming in at number one on the Australian new car sales chart month after month, while the other is a stalwart of the ute market that earned a favourable reputation for its reliability and strong powerplant.
But both have gone a number of years without significant update, leaving the ute buyers of Australia frothing at the thought of a new generation.
Combine the fact that the government has just extended it instant asset write off plan until the end of the year and we reckon these two heavyweights will become hot property.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s take a look at how these two utes stack up against one another.
The 2021 Isuzu D-Max retains a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, though does come with a few revisions. Power and torque is now up by 10kW and 20Nm respectively, totalling 140kW/450Nm, and while the unit has minimal fuel efficiency savings, it is at least said to be quieter.
That’s good news for D-Max fans, as the tried and true powerplant - sourced from the company's light truck division - was a highlight of the previous generation.
Meanwhile, the HiLux receives a similar arrangement in that the 2021 model will use the same 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, though numbers are now bumped to 150kW/500Nm which gives it a decent edge over the D-Max.
Toyota reckons its updates to the powertrain have permanently fixed the troublesome diesel particulate filter issues that have plagued the HiLux, which have previously resulted in a class action against Toyota in Australian courts.
New for D-Max is an electromagnetic rear differential lock to make things that little bit easier off-road, while Isuzu has also made some changes to shorten the time spent switching between 2WD and 4WD modes.
Both 4x4 and 4x2 versions continue to be offered, as will the choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Wading depth is up 200 millimetres to an 800mm total and hill descent control and hill start assist is now added for those actually keen to turn away from the bitumen.
The new D-Max retains a ladder chassis and a live leaf-sprung rear axle and independent coil front suspension that are standard fare for the class of ute.
Isuzu has beefed up the strength of the chassis with extensive use of high strength steel in key areas for added safety and improved dynamics. Some weight was saved with the use of new materials, but those weight savings haven been cancelled out with standard equipment additions and noise insulation.
Suspension changes are on the way for HiLux, with updates coming for shock absorbers, new bushings and an improved leaf spring suspension set up. These updates are said to improve the HiLux’s low-speed and unladen ride quality.
The suspension and power steering changes have been made while maintaining the load-carrying capacity and ability, which has always been a strong point for the model.
Toyota has fitted an additional traction control function to 4x4 HiLux models equipped with downhill-assist control, which reroutes torque in 2WD mode to provide more grip.
All 4x4 D-MAX models will retain a 3500kg towing capacity.
Toyota says the automatic HiLux will now be able to tow with the best of them at 3500kg, a lift of 400kg over the outgoing model.
Coming off a very old base, the improvements for the 2021 D-Max interior are promising. The whole design now presents much more car-like, and a bump in specification will see the D-Max’s interior thrust into the current decade.
It gets a 9.0-inch touchscreen that now runs both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time, and a smaller digital read-out finds itself nestled within the instrument cluster to provide key vehicle information.
Dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, leather-appointed seats and keyless entry are some other hallmarks of the updated specification.
Less is changed with the Hilux, but new additions include an 8.0-inch touchscreen (with knob audio controls rather buttons) with smartphone mirroring for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and safety inclusions such as active cruise control, lane keep assist and pedestrian detection return.
It’s hard to tell which will be a nicer mobile office without spending some quality time inside but the D-Max’s interior improvement is promising.
There doesn't seem to be a lot in it when looking at pricing between the incoming Isuzu D-Max and Toyota Hilux. Judged like-for-like, the D-Max X-Terrain costs $62,990 (before on-road costs) while the range topping Toyota Hilux SR5+ costs $62,420 (before ORCs).
Look down the range and compare models such as the entry-level D-Max SX dual-cab 4x4 auto ($49,900 before ORCs) and the entry-level Workmate 4x4 dual-cab auto ($48,790 before ORCs) is at a slight price advantage, but it does get a less powerful engine.
Much like its substantial interior improvement, plenty has been changed on the exterior of the new D-Max. It now receives LED headlights and taillights, a stylised grille design that’s incorporated into a heavily-revised fascia and some black accenting as well.
There’s not a whole lot different with the 2021 Hilux’s looks, but if it ain’t broke… It does get a slightly larger grille, new headlights and taillights as well as some new wheels, bringing it closer to the looks of the Tacoma ute of the United States.
While this is just a quick look at what we’re expecting from just two of the utes to get refreshed this year, we won’t have to wait too long to put both of them together in real life for a look-in later this year.
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